Tuesday, 18 October 2016
Questions without Notice
Building and Construction Industry
My question is to the Minister for Defence Industry, representing the Minister for Employment. Will the minister update the House on why restoring the Australian Building and Construction Commission is essential to the creation of more jobs for Australians? What hurdles exist to restoring the rule of law to the building and construction sector?
I am very grateful to the member for Fisher for this question, because I know that he, along all of his colleagues, at least on this side of the House, is absolutely passionate about restoring the rule of law on the building and construction sites across Australia. The member for Fisher asks me why it is important to reform building and construction in Australia. The building and construction industry employs 1.1 million Australians. It sustains 300,000 small businesses and contributes eight per cent to gross domestic product, so it is a very important part of our economy. But, unfortunately, it could be much more productive if it were not for the influence of the CFMEU and their fellow travellers in the union movement that stop the building and construction industry from reaching its full potential.
The Haydon royal commission found that the building and construction industry was riddled with 'systemic corruption and unlawful conduct, including corrupt payments, physical and verbal violence, threats, intimidation, abuse of right of entry permits, secondary boycotts and contempt of court'. It went on to say:
Given the high level of unlawful activity within the building and construction sector, it is desirable to have a regulator tasked solely with enforcing the law within that sector.
Yet the Leader of the Opposition cannot see any problem in the building and construction sector. As the saying goes: there are none so blind as those that will not see. The Leader of the Opposition determinedly decides to ignore what everyone else can see before them, which is that the building and construction sector is one of the most unproductive in our economy, and it could make an enormous difference to our economy in Australia and jobs and growth if the building and construction industry were reformed. But there could be a clue as to why the Leader of the Opposition takes this position which is diametrically opposed to Australia's best interests: there are $11.2 million worth of clues as to why the Labor Party will not stop being shackled to the CFMEU. That is the amount of money that the CFMEU has donated to the Labor Party since the year 2000: $11.2 million. As the Treasurer says, 'Follow the money.' The reality is that this enormous amount of money is stopping the Leader of the Opposition from putting Australians' interests first rather than the CFMEU's interests first. He could prove us wrong by reversing the Labor Party's position on the ABCC and ROC bills. He could prove that he is not a cat's paw of the union movement, by reversing Labor's position and by supporting these bills. If he does that, I and the Prime Minister will be the first to congratulate him because that will be putting Australia's interests first.